Justin Duke

Side Projects: July 2017


  1. Buttondown continues to grow, as does Spoonbill.
  2. Consolidated my web stuff. This site is better than ever, Village Blacksmith is nice and clean.
  3. Still launching dope stuff on Buttondown: I’m particularly proud of its new embed support, which will hopefully integrate with Medium somewhat soon.


  1. Buttondown continues to be unprofitable, as does Spoonbill.
  2. I didn’t launch Very Cute, though I got a bit more progress on it. (I don’t feel that bad about this, because it was a productive month — it’s just that most of my cycles were poured into Buttondown.)

What’s Next

  1. Going to retool Buttondown’s pricing to try and monetize the majority of the user segments who don’t qualify for the current pricing schema. For $19/mo, you can set a custom redirect URL, remove branding, and probably a couple other things.
  2. Sticking to that. I think with the current amount of energy I’m spending on Buttondown it’s prohibitively difficult to work on something else. (More about this later.). There are a couple projects I want to do (React Native version of https://coinmarketcap.com/, public Airtable tracking SaaS prices, simple AWS infoproduct…) but I don’t think I can commit to any of them right now.

Other Thoughts

  • The past couple weeks have been exhausting! My schedule has felt packed to the gills: wake up early, do chores and administrative stuff til 9, then work til 1, then work out, then work until 5 or 6. At that point I’m exhausted and have to choose between working on side projects or doing something fun and active. I’m been choosing the latter as much as possible — which is the right choice — but it means I don’t move the needle as much as I’d like, which means I feel guilty.
  • I’m really tempted to start tracking vanity metrics more, because they’re doing really well. But vanity metrics won’t buy me scotch.

Read more →

Everything I got wrong with Buttondown's launch

I want to do an earnest, thorough analysis of Buttondown’s launch at some point in the future: what the traffic was like, conversion rates, et cetera. (Truth be told, I haven’t even looked at those numbers yet — there were a bunch of visitors, there were a bunch of signups, and that’s pretty much all I know because I’ve been so in the weeds with work the past week and a half.)

That’s not what this post is, though that post is coming! Instead, I wanted to talk about the question that I always wished more people talked about during launch postmortems:

Where did I mess up?

Read more →

Side Projects: June 2017

Note Yeah, this is on here now. I decided having a separate site for Village Blacksmith's posts was dumb, and am now migrating everything over here. Graphs and such are missing for now, but I'll backfill them soon.


  1. Switching App Store ads back on for Barback was the correct move. Yay for repeatable, scalable (well, to a certain point) marketing loops.

  2. Even if I didn’t hit all my engagement targets for Buttondown, it’s in an infinitely better (read: it is actually stable now) place tech-wise.


  1. Wasn’t as aggressive about marketing Buttondown as I should have been. I have a public launch (aka submitting to Product Hunt and Hacker News and seeing what happens) in the calendar, though!

What’s Next

  1. Consolidating my web presence! I’ve given this site a facelift, am in the process of migrating Village Blacksmith posts to it, and then will clean that up so it’s more of a straightforward marketing page.

  2. Launching Very Cute, my silly React Native app for viewing cute pictures of animals. This is like 80% done and I just need to commit to getting it across the finish line.

Read more →

Update: May 2017

Man, the momentum is really sucked out of one of these when the update for April came a mere two weeks ago! Victories Launched Buttondown! There are still things that need to be done: features that need to be written, edges that need to be sanded. But it’s here, and it’s live, and it’s being used. (Not by enough people, but more about that later.) Setbacks Sales.
Read more →

Update: April 2017

Okay, so this is comically overdue. This is for two reasons: Village Blacksmith has been on the back burner due to a mixture of existing project burnout and maniacal work on a new project (more on that in later.) I’ve been traveling. Richmond to Durham to Portland has taken away a lot of weekends, and I usually do this when I have an hour uninterrupted at a coffeeshop, which has been a rare occasion.
Read more →

Update: March 2017

Victories Spoonbill continues to grow at a steady clip, purely due to organic growth. It’s still not yielding any revenue, which is lame, but I’ve had a bunch of talks with folks about monetization models so if this continues it’s not far off. Setbacks Didn’t launch anything :(. I shipped a bunch of stuff for Spoonbill, but a cocktail of fatigue + sickness + massive underestimation meant that I missed both Floradora and Barback’s minor version bumps.
Read more →

Update: February 2017

Wow, February legitimately just flew by. That was a quick four weeks. Let’s dive into things, shall we? Victories Spoonbill has momentum! My goal last month was to hit 200 users and that goal got crushed (in a good way) thanks to an unexpected Product Hunt launch and a bunch of word of mouth marketing after that. It’s now growing fairly steadily, though the increased attention means I’m focusing more time and effort towards it (which is still non-profit) than I’d like.
Read more →

Update: January 2017

Revenues {{< table january2017revenues >}} Expenses {{< table january2017expenses >}} Victories Launched Barback 4. It was dope and there are no crashes and customer feedback seems to be super positive. (This is probably the best I’ve felt about launching an app, ever.) Got some positive write-ups on Floradora, which made all of the cold-calling worth it! It made a nice first entry into the actual world of manual marketing.
Read more →


Last week I released Floradora! It’s a tiny little Mac menu bar app. This gif explains it easier than words: In case you don’t get the gist immediately: it’s a thing you click on to get a text box to send yourself emails. It’s basically Captio for Mac. (As a sidebar: if you don’t already own Captio, buy it immediately. It’s tremendously useful.) Why I made it So I’m going to basically lift the product description I used for the iTunes Store, because it’s both folksy and accurate:
Read more →

I made an app I’ll never use

I made a very small app that I find personally abhorrent to ever use. More on that in a sec. First, please download it. I’ll probably ask you a few more times over the course of this post, but downloading helps my rankings! And plus it makes me feel good. Anyway, I made an app I’ll never use. Here’s the app again. Have you downloaded it yet? Of course you have — you’re my friend and want the best for me.
Read more →
© 2017 Justin Duke • All rights reserved • I hope you have a nice day.